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Original Title:
Yeonae-ui mokjeok

South Korea 2005

Drama, Romance

Han Jae-rim

Park Hae-il
Kang Hye-jeong
Lee Dae-yeon
Park Grina
Seo Yeong-hwa

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Rules of Dating

Story: Lee Yoo-rim (Park Hae-il) is 26 years old. He gets assigned 27 years old student teacher Choi Hong (Kang Hye-jeong), who he instantly falls in love with. Although he has a girlfriend for about 6 years Lee tells Choi straightforward that he wants to have sex with her. Choi refuses, of course, especially since she has a boyfriend already. She also avoids Lee's continuous attempts to make a pass at her, but does so in a strange passive way, as if she isn't really unwilling. Eventually, Lee talks her round.
After the two spent the night together, their relationship just starts to get interesting. Lee gets to know a lot about Choi's past, the reason why she is so rejecting and why she still isn't a teacher at her age.
The relationship is ill-fated from the beginning, but when rumours about the two are spreading at school, problems just start to pop up.

Review: Another movie that doesn't meet the expecations the cover and title raise. And yet again, this isn't something bad at all! "Rules of Dating" was most likely promoted as a comedy romance out of marketing reasons. In fact director Han Jae-rim's debut is a romance drama that tells a good story with extraordinary characters. The role woman takes up in Korean society is as much in the center of events as themes like sex or love are.
What's making the movie interesting is that this time your typical love story is told from backwards to forwards. Meaning that now it's first sex and then the relationship starts to evolve and undergo some changes!

At first it's a bit difficult to make friends with the protagonists. Lee's bahaviour is just too odd, telling Choi right to the face and without any qualm that he wants to sleep with her. The way Choi rejects him is even more disconcerting. Her passivity shows, that she might have feelings for Lee. Yet, in her past there must have happened something that caused her to shrink into her shell. You can see that she doesn't trust anyone anymore not only when you look at her taciturnity at several teacher meatings in a bar, but also when you take a good look at her flat. With various locks at her door and Choi's paranoid behavior causing her to awake with a start when hearing even the slightest of noises, director Han draws the first facets of Choi's character and does so with a great eye for small details. Only later on we discover the reason for her seclusion and Choi slowly starts to unbend. Her character becomes more colorful and even starts to laugh every now and then.

Kang Hye-jeong, mainly known for her role in "Oldboy", plays herself into the hearts of the audience as Choi in no time. She looks good, emits exceptional charm and even shows more of herself than we would have expected in some of the hot scenes. However, it's her outstanding performance of the complex person Choi, that shows that she hasn't only got what it takes to be a supporting actor, but that she also can handle the burdens of a main actress with ease. Hopefully, we'll see her in the spotlight again in her future movies.
Park Hae-il isn't your typical ladykiller, yet surprises with his frankness. He takes what he wants and does so in such a insensitive way, that it wouldn't take much to call him a stalker and raper. We instantly start to hate him, but Park manages the seemingly impossible to change into a caring, protecting and likeable friend, who somehow has more feelings for Choi than he wants to admit to himself.

The hardly understandable actions, odd behavior and strange situations in which Lee and Choi oftentimes are involved in only make sense in retrospect, when we get to know the characters a little bit better and are introduced to their past. At the latest in the latter half of the movie we start to care about these two characters and the relationship of them gains importance. Even if the focus still lies on the individual persons.

Director Han Jae-rim knows how to win the audience's attention by implementing good dialogues and a good pacing. Although a serious film in general, "Rules of Dating" most of the time has a joyful undertone, which is also noticeable in its soundtrack. The movie does take itself very serious as a drama, yet also delivers a few unconventional jokes.
The intensity of the film is mainly achieved because of its charming and interesting protagonists, nonetheless, the plot is also quite good. Some scenes subsequently seem to be unimportant and it wouldn't have done the movie any bad if it would have been cut down a bit. On the other hand this way we wouldn't have been able to see enchanting Kang Hye-jeong long enough.

"Rules of Dating" is an entertaining, yet serious drama, that sheds some light on the role of women. Choi convinces as a broken woman, whose pain has its origin in her treatment of a man. Because the word of a man is of more importance and credibility than hers she has become an individual outcast by society, who can only stand up again, when she turns the tables and discredits a man herself. Lee is Choi's catharsis. To watch her evolvement and maturing isn't just interesting, but one also obtains satisfaction out if it.
A romance/drama with a message, that doesn't make use of any cliches and which is a welcome change to your typical Korean romance stuff!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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